1. How did you become involved with the book project for Ending Addiction for Good?
My coauthor’s wife has been a close friend of mine for nearly twenty years. One night, over dinner, Richard (my coauthor) asked me about my doctoral dissertation. He heard I did “something” with addiction. When I told him about my research, his mouth dropped open. He said, “That’s exactly what we do at my treatment center.” After that, he began courting me to write a book with him about addiction recovery.
2. What life experiences have played a role in why this project is important to you?
By the time I was 22 years old, I had a two-liters-of-hard-liquor-a-day habit. I was a hopeless alcoholic and I was dying. I was fortunate to get sober – but I was miserable in my recovery. The 12 step program I participated in helped me to recover, but it didn’t offer what I needed to live a happy, productive life. I suffered from severe childhood trauma – and the 12 steps were not adequate to help me deal with that. I also saw a lot of war veterans in the meetings who suffered from trauma as I did – and they weren’t staying sober. Their trauma intruded on them too much. I wanted to know what could be done to give those who suffer from severe trauma hope for a meaningful and comfortable life.
3. In the book it states that there is no cure for alcoholism or drug addictions. If there is no cure, what can an addict reasonably expect to gain?
We don’t use the language of “cure” in our book because that is a medical term – and we do not approach addiction as a disease. However, we absolutely believe that addicts can and do recover – fully recover. We know because we have done it and we help others to do it every day. Addicts can expect full, rich, passionately-lived lives – that is the transformation that is recovery from addiction.
4. Once a person recovers, what strategies can they apply to maintain recovery?
Whatever worked for you in the treatment center and in the months after you leave treatment should be maintained. Recovery is a life-long commitment to maintaining the health of mind, body, and spirit. This may include psychotherapy, participation in a faith tradition, 12 step meetings, yoga, proper nutrition, frequent exercise -- and things that are not always associated with recovery – participation in hobbies that you like (sailing, bicycle or horseback riding, knitting, painting, etc.), time with family and friends, and volunteer work. Recovery is about living a full life that feeds your whole health.
5. In the book you place a lot of emphasis on the Stages of Change model. Can you briefly explain what that model is and why it is so effective?
What the Stages of Change model does is explain exactly how change occurs in a person. By understanding change as a series of stages, we are able to identify in people where they are with respect to their willingness and ability to make major life changes. This has allowed us to use specific treatment tools to help people long before they “hit bottom.” The Stages of Change allows us to reach out successfully to those who do not recognize that they have a problem or those who are so demoralized that they don’t believe there is hope for recovery.
6. Cliffside Malibu has been so successful that you offer a Cliffside Malibu guarantee. Tell us about the guarantee?
For anyone who completes all three levels of care and graduates from the treatment program, we offer the “Cliffside Malibu Guarantee.” If any of these individuals relapse within their first year of recovery, they may come back to primary care for free. This is our way of matching the addict’s commitment to their recovery. Since the treatment center’s inception, only one person has ever had to be brought back to primary care using the guarantee. We stand by the efficacy of this treatment protocol in a way that no other treatment center does.
7. What can you tell us about the individualized treatment that addicts receive at Cliffside Malibu?
One of the things we have learned about treatment is that people really do require individualized care to have the best opportunity to recover. At Cliffside Malibu, we spend a great deal of time getting to know each client, then providing the exact treatments that will work best to foster his/her recovery. This could mean brain mapping and hyperbaric treatment for those who have organic brain injury (physical damage to the brain) or access to a martial arts master if the client had a previous martial arts practice, the resumption of which would bring meaning to his/her life. No two clients are the same. We provide whatever service the client needs to recover. That is what individualized treatment is all about.
8. Please describe the ideal treatment program.
The ideal treatment program provides the following:
a. Medically supervised detox to make separation from substances abused as safe and comfortable as possible.
b. A personal psychotherapist who sees the addict almost daily, so that the addict is able to begin building healthy, trusting relationships and uncover and move past the root causes of his/her addiction.
c. Highly individualized care that provides access to proven, evidence-based treatments.
d. Emphasis on whole-health (mind, body, spirit) treatment interventions so that the person recovers completely, on every level.
e. Luxury accommodations and guaranteed privacy so that the addict’s focus can be on life-change, and the hope needed to recover can develop in a comfortable, safe and supportive environment.
9. Can you provide 3 of your top recommendations for someone that is currently struggling with addictions?
a. Believe that there is hope. Most addicts are so beaten down and demoralized by their addictions that they don’t believe they can recover. You can. You just need the right support.
b. Ask for help. Most addicts are surprised by how much others will reach out to them and support them if they ask for help. You do not have to do this alone.
c. Seek out the best treatment you can afford. Find a treatment center that offers individualized, whole health treatment. Look for a facility that bases its protocol on evidence-based treatment methods and has industry-leading professionals on staff. You deserve the highest quality care available.
Constance Scharff has a Ph.D. in Transformative Studies, specializing in addiction recovery. She is a researcher with the Institute for Creative Transformation and the world’s leading expert on using ecstatic spiritual experience to maintain long-term sobriety. Her ground breaking publication, “Filling the God-shaped hole: Reframing alcoholism as an opportunity for spiritual transformation,” is available from UMI Research Press. She is also a Transformative Studies and Addiction Research Consultant for Cliffside Malibu, a leading addiction treatment center in Malibu, California. Dr. Scharff writes for a variety of journals and speaks to healing professionals on helping addicts in recovery maintain their sobriety. She has also traveled extensively in Asia, Africa, and North America, learning how to help individuals evoke life-transforming spiritual experiences and use those experiences to heal addictions and trauma.